ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Council of Ministers will meet on Wednesday to decide on potential changes to austerity measures in place for the past two years.
The meeting comes after civil servants launched multiple demonstrations in cities and towns across the Kurdistan Region over the past few days to protest reduced and delinquent salaries.
Videos of protestors being disbursed by government forces and claims of civil servants, including teachers, being beaten and arrested have become popular on social media, increasing public pressure on the KRG to act.
The austerity measures were implemented as a result of a prolonged economic crisis in the region.
“Today, the KRG Council of Ministers will convene and based on the revenues available, it will decide on decreasing the austerity measures in favor of the civil servants,” a source from the KRG’s Council of Ministers told Kurdistan 24 on Wednesday morning.
The source added that in the latest meeting of the KRG's Oil and Gas Council, members prepared a project that will allow them to lighten the measures, and will decide about that today as well, in cooperation with the Council of Ministers.
KRG spokesman Safeen Dizayee told Kurdistan 24 that productive suggestions had been made when the last Oil and Gas Council last assembled.
Of today’s Council of Ministers meeting, Dizayee remarked, "Certainly, any decisions made will be in favor of civil servants.”
Kurdistan 24 has learned that the KRG is planning to order that all government salaries be distributed on time, at the end of each month.
Austerity measures are expected to remain in reduced form, with KRG employees’ salaries, which in some cases has been a 70 percent cut. The new rate should be between a 10 percent deduction and the maximum of 30 percent.
According to the new system, if a KRG employee has a salary of IQD 500,000 (US $420) per month, they would receive IQD 450,000, and the deducted IQD 50,000 will be saved and paid back by the KRG when it overcomes its current financial crisis.
Before Newroz, the Kurdish New Year, the federal government of Iraq sent IQD 317 billion ($266 million) to the Kurdistan Region for the civil servant salaries.
In a statement, the KRG’s Ministry of Finance and Economy stated that it would require IQD 900 billion ($756 million) per month to pay the salaries of all its employees in full. If calculated based on the current austerity measures, the government still needs IQD 590 billion ($495 million), still more than twice what the federal government is reported to have sent.
The KRG failed to pay employee's salaries for four months during 2015. Throughout the entire year of 2016, it paid workers just under half their total salaries per month. In 2017, the KRG dispersed the salaries of the first 11 months at the reduced rates, with December and the first three months of 2018 still unpaid.
The region's extreme economic crisis in large part due to 2014 federal budget cuts by Baghdad, a drop in international oil prices, the war against the Islamic State (IS), and the sudden influx of 1.8 million refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs).
Editing by John J. Catherine